Category Archives: Food

Promising New Pan-Vietnamese Food at B&D Authentic Viet Cuisine

B&D Authentic Viet Cuisine (website, Instagram) just opened in mid-April of this year and I’ve easily noticed them cuz they’ve been hammering social media, using every tool available to get the word out. From sponsored posts, to collaborating with influencers to do giveaways, to hiring a fantastic photographer (the photos of which they’ve been maximizing use of with great results), B&D have been pushing hard. I’m usually skeptical of such tactics — how many copycat Reels and noodle pulls can a person stand to watch?!? And where are the frickin’ real-world reviews? But in this case their menu seemed to be refreshingly small and focused, plus I’m game for checking out a new, clean, and comfortable room with properly functioning washrooms.

This space on Kingsway near Highgate Village has been a bit of a restaurant black hole/revolving door, having been host to 4-5 restaurants in the last 6 years (thanks Kevin for that bit of info). Most recently this space was Queen’s Cafe by Eighteen Chefs (who lasted two years but only had 187 followers in IG). I’m hoping B&D stick around for a long while cuz I think they’re doing something good and a bit different from everybody else in town.

We went for dinner around 5pm on a Sunday and they weren’t busy. By around 6pm the place started to get full and was pretty busy but not quite full by 7pm.

Menu porn:

Appetizers.

The menu situation at B&D is a bit messy, with separate lunch and dinner menus, each of which are spread over two laminated sheets. The lunch menu is also available for dinner, so you could end up juggling four menus at once . They’re also going to be adding new dishes, so if they don’t redesign and reprint, you might be juggling five sheets at once.

Bottom part of appetizers.

What I actually appreciate about the menu here is that there aren’t 10+ variations of pho or vermicelli bowls or rice dishes. At the time of writing, there’s only one pho, two vermicelli bowls, two rice dishes, in addition to bun bo hue and bo kho.

Share dishes.

This was the part of the menu that interested us — dishes that you don’t see that often. We got the Coconut Rice Cakes (Bánh Khọt) and Da Lat Beef Hot Pot from this section.

Wicca’s favourite section of the menu — often boring as hell in most Vietnamese restaurants — but these both sounded great and right up Wicca’s alley. She’s so bored with Chè Ba Màu (Three Colour Dessert), so seeing actual housemade cakes made her excited.

The runaway success of vegan/vegetarian places like Chau Veggie and the always-busy Do Chay has proven that you need to accomodate this market.

Mains section of the Lunch menu.

Bun Bo Hue fans will be happy to see this. The FOH manager/owner Dat (the “D” in “B&D”) said that their BBH has been very popular — they’ve had to prepare double the amount of broth for it since they introduced it on to the menu. We ordered a bowl.

The two rice dishes on the menu are the classic/standard ones.

…and the two vermicelli bowls.

So after all that, I still got the impression that they weren’t trying to do too much by offering endless variations. That said, they’re introducing a few more dishes to the menu soon, possibly a braised duck noodle soup and a banh hoi platter (fine rice vermicelli bundles). If they can maintain the quality and kitchen efficiency, I’d be ok with that!

Interior.

Bagock!!

Love the amount of natural light this space lets in cuz it makes for effortless photos .

Grilled Betel Beef Skewers ($6 for 2). They also offer pork or prawns, and you can mix-n-match.

Tastes ok but a bit dry for me.

Menu says this comes with pickles and fish sauce but it only came as-is. These are on the skinny side so of course ended up a bit too dry for my taste. Would’ve been less of an issue if they brought out the fish sauce but we were finished the dish before we realized, haha. Regardless, the flavour was alright. Wicca mentioned the Viet thing about frying the hell out of anything, especially fish. If a whole fish hasn’t been desiccated in frying oil, it hasn’t been cooked the Viet way . I still try to push back on that idea — I mean, we already took the fish out of the water…no need to turn it into jerky!

Comes with a side of pickled carrots and mustard greens (mostly hidden in this pic).

Crunchy Wings ($11), B&D Special Chili Fish Sauce flavour. They also offer Salt & Pepper but we’re glad we got this one. I was expecting the thicker, crunchy style of wings with a thin sticky sweet glaze (e.g. DD Mau), but this lighter and drier style was excellent.

Great blistered and crisp frying job. Interior a touch dry but overall flavour makes up for it. Pickled carrots and mustard greens a good and interesting side. I like how these weren’t so sticky and messy that you end up tearing your napkin to shreds trying to clean your sticky fingers.

Their limited Bun Bo Hue ($15), ordered with all onions on the side:

Onions on the side, please. Cảm ơn!

If you’re onion-averse like Wicca is, you can imagine what a buzzkill it would be to pick out every scrap of onion before you’re comfortable enough to start eating .

The standard accompaniments.

Their housemade cha hue (Hue-style ham) is appropriately punchy with all the peppercorns in it. Great flavour and has that housemade texture and freshness to it.

Sliced beef shank and sliced pork hock (not chunks). BBH fans love this thicker style of noodle — a different experience from pho!

This BBH was a lighter take on BBH, less rich and less spicy than say Cafe Xu Hue, but the lemongrass notes were nicely prominent. Lighter and still tasty but if you prefer a richer bowl you might be disappointed. If you’re a BBH fan, I’d say try it cuz the fresh, peppery Hue-style ham is something you might not have tried before.

Coconut Rice Cakes aka Bánh Khọt ($15). Comes with lettuce, basil, and Vietnamese perilla (lá tía tô) to wrap the bánh khọt in.

As pancakes are to waffles, banh xeo is to banh kot…

IMHO this dish flies under the radar and isn’t as well-known or popular as Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese crepes) but the batter is similar. If you like the crispy/crunchy qualities of bánh xèo, then you’ll probably like these too.

Banh khot are like if you started making takoyaki but stopped halfway and forgot about it until it got crunchy/crispy. Sort of. The pan used to make these looks like a jumbo takoyaki pan.

There’s some colour on the bottom but these were actually crunchier than the colour suggests. A satisfying crunch but not too hard.

The dollop of coconut cream really comes through when you eat it.

The fish sauce is light ‘n easy — suited to this rendition of the dish, imho. Really fun to eat whether you wrap it or not. We’d order this again.

You can also find this dish at La Maison Da Nang and Anh and Chi, plus a vegan one at Do Chay. I haven’t tried any of them, but now it seems like it would be fun to do a comparison of them all because they all look different. And you know ya boy Sup Dawk loves banh khot :

 

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Da Lat Beef Hot Pot ($27) was a different experience for us cuz the beef flank actually comes in pre-cooked cubes already sitting in the broth. All you have to do is put in your veggies etc:

Comes with wrinkly tofu skin, tofu cubes, taro cubes, “house special fermented tofu sauce”, instant noodles, and veggies (in this case it was some sort of choy plus mustard greens underneath, hidden).

That yellowy fermented tofu sauce is very similar to Chinese fermented tofu cubes (fuyu in Cantonese) and I love the savoury funky cheesiness of it! This is the first time I’ve ever had it with hot pot. I usually eat it with Chinese congee and maybe stir fried in kangkong (water spinach).

Methanol gel-type fuel. Staff will come refill it or your broth, as-needed. They were quite attentive to it.

The broth has a light flavour that’s ready to drink right away but gets even better as things cook in it and it gets reduced. Lemongrass and Chinese red dates in the broth.

Piece of beef dipped in the fermented tofu sauce.

The menu says “flank” but the chunks almost taste like brisket (or at least brisket-adjacent). Dipping beef into fermented tofu sauce is a wonderful new experience for me and it might not be for everyone. Luckily the sauce isn’t too strong — less strong than how most Vietnamese restaurants serve mam ruoc (fermented shrimp paste) anyways… It’s an almost cheese-like funky umami flavour. Sound good?

Banana Cake aka Bánh Chuối Nướng ($7). Very well done Vietnamese dessert, just barely sweet and plenty moist. Wicca liked it but loved this more:

Cassava Cake aka Bánh Khoai Mì ($7). Also just barely sweet, and full of fresh grated coconut.

Soft, moist, and chewy. Nicely caramelized edge too. Both of these desserts exemplified the ultimate Asian criteria for desserts:

Our first visit here was overwhelmingly positive. If they can maintain the quality of food and service, it’ll become an established winner.

We’re Number One: Published on Main

Being named Canada’s Best comes with a lot of new expectations and pressure! Wicca and I enjoyed our visit to Published on Main last summer (4-part recap on Instagram here, here, here, and here), and I hoped to show a small group of friends a bit of that same excitement. For the most part, this was a good visit with attentive but not overbearing or rushed service, and a slightly lagging kitchen at times, but being named #1 you expect every dish on the menu to be firing on all cylinders…

You’d think that after winning Canada’s 100 Best, that Published would be packed to the gills, especially on the weekends. While reservations are indeed booked solid for the next couple months, they do leave a portion of the restaurant open for walk-ins. We were able to easily get a table for 5 at 5:00pm (opening time) on a Friday after they seated the groups that did have resos. And since this is Vancouver after all, I imagine that you’d have little trouble getting in on weekdays, especially at off-peak hours.

We sat at one of the small round 4-tops near the front. It was comfortable enough for the five of us because we’re small people 😅. Our server smartly paced our dishes so that no more than a couple dishes were on the table at one time.

I’m always open for skin/orange! 2020 d.b. Schmitt Frei Korper Kultur Weiss ($16) was dry, fruity, and crushable yet complex.

A friend’s PG-13 ($11) non-alcoholic cocktail made with pineapple, mango, star anise shrub, and egg white.

Roasted Fiddleheads ($21) with a black sesame gomae and toasted hemp hearts. Good but not that exciting. I could’ve used more of that black sesame stuff though!

[Someone DMed me saying that Burdock & Co’s fiddlehead dish is much better 😉.]

Brussels Sprouts ($18) with charred brussels sprouts, “pecan tasty paste”, apple, and more pecans on top. This one pleased everyone thanks to the “tasty paste”, which looked like refriend beans and had a similar texture. The brussels sprouts were shredded. The apple element did not register, so I’m not sure where it was supposed to be. The char was also on the light side… I know this isn’t Crowbar (RIP). Despite those niggles, this was still a delicious, crowd-pleasing dish.

Tasty paste is the new Soylent Brown.

Æbleskiver ($18 for 3, we added 2 more). These are savoury Danish donuts stuffed with stewed herbs and served with fresh herb emulsion. The pan used to make these looks like a Japanese takoyaki pan ⁠— in fact the process of making these is almost the same, down to turning the balls with sticks.

Tastes like a deep fried pancake. Firmly savoury territory. In addition to the herbs, there were pine nuts and goji berries inside. The fresh herb emulsion tasted green (herby & chlorophylly) but while nicely thick, it only had light impact on the palate. Still, a fun and tasty dish.

Four Winds Saison (6.5%) – $7 for 10 oz. Restaurant beer pricing is always 🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑 haha……sigh…

Green Harissa Cauliflower ($19) with raisin & caper condiment (hidden in this photo).

Another hit, especially cuz of the raisin & caper condiment hidden underneath the well-roasted cauliflower ⁠— they might’ve even just deep fried the cauliflower??? Beautiful colour on it, regardless. The green harissa was a great element too.

Is it me, or have the dishes here become really edited or stripped down since when they first opened? I love it when every element serves a purpose and doesn’t fight or mask other elements, but some dishes can get precariously close to “meh” (e.g. the fiddleheads dish). This cauliflower dish, however, is everything it needs to be.

Chicken Fried Maitake ($22) with garlic scape ranch. A killer dish I also had last year, which was a bit too salty then but is perfectly seasoned now. One of those perfect dishes for an elevated restaurant ⁠— uses fancier, more chic and special ingredients but pays off in a delicious and accessible way.

Mortadella Stuffed Morels ($30) with “turbo cheese sauce” 🤣. Is that a high performance cheese? (link to Facebook video of Top Chef Canada judge Mark McEwan saying “high performance cheese”. More info on exact episode here. Possible origin of the phrase here.)

On paper this sounded amazing but it ate a bit too heavy, with the mortadella detracting and distracting from the morels. And with the rich cheese sauce, it became too heavy to enjoy without some fresh acid to balance it out. Get yourself an acid-forward beverage with this one. Or even a low-rent wedge of lemon would help tremendously.

This year’s BC Fire Morel dish with sopressini (“open purse”) pasta sounds great though. Last year, I very much enjoyed the BC Fire Morels with garganelli pasta (like a hand-rolled penne shape) and garlic scape pesto. That dish showcased the morels better than this one.

Prawn Toast ($27) with Malay-style prawn sauce. This was a dud, especially after having  an amazing shrimp toast made with BC sidestripes at Avling in Toronto and a good one on the seasonal menu at DD Mau. The prawn sauce was runny, didn’t cling well, and lacked the beautiful and critical blobs of flavourful oil (as shown on the Published menu photo) that usually dot or flood the surface of great Malaysian curries . The prawn paste was very wet and separated from the toast easily. Even when reassembled, it ate with little of the excitement and flavour that prawn toast usually brings. Minor niggle: no perilla/shiso, which is also shown in their menu photo. I can’t even fake a smile for this one.

Jaegerschnitzel ($44) with burn morel jaegersauce. AFAIK burn morels are like “fire morels”, morels that grow in the aftermath of forest fires like a delicious edible silver lining. I loved being able to taste the morels in their full glory in this dish as opposed to the mortadella-stuffed one. The schnitzel was well-fried but the sauce was thin and sparse, which really hurt this dish’s full potential and impact.

Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon ($43) with elderflower butter sauce and potato dumplings. Yes, one of us ordered a salmon dish. But this dinner wasn’t all about me, and that’s ok.

This was actually a really good salmon dish. We couldn’t tell that it was smoked, which was perfectly fine by us! I loved the colour on the potato dumplings.

This is the point where the kitchen started to get bogged down with a 30 minute gap between our mains and dessert, but it was peak time (7-8pm), so it’s understandable.

Chocolate ($12) with valrhona manjari chocolate panna cotta with peanut butter semifreddo and banana sorbet. I did not partake but Wicca says it really came together excellently. Delicious.

Caramelized Yogurt ($12) with black currant sorbet and candied sunflower seeds. I again did not partake but the rest of us talked about the contrast between the very tart sorbet and the yogurt worked well.

The complimentary stuff ($0) you get at the end. People loved the caramels.

We were able to order nine dishes in total, and split between the five of us, it came out to $56 per person — totally reasonable. Good responsive service. They didn’t rush us.

I do want to go back to try that other morel dish, and get more Chicken Fried Maitakes all to myself. There was also “tater tots with caviar” on the feature menu so I might have to go back sooner rather than later. That I want to go back is always a good sign.

Carnitas & Tortilla Heaven at Chancho

Hello blog world! It’s been a while. I’ve been much more active on Instagram the past few years (almost 7000 posts!), so I encourage you to check out that platform if you’ve been hesitant to join. You’ll get to see all my day-to-day stuff that never makes it onto the blog, plus all the in-depth stuff I usually post here but have been too busy to do. Either way, thank you so much for reading.

I’ve been to Chancho once before at their original location on Seymour, around the corner from their current larger space on Davie. It was takeout carnitas and plus a bundle of their excellent kernel-to-tortilla tortillas. I immediately thought they were the best tortillas in town — thin, great flavour, with that bit of tug and resiliency. I visited their new space recently and it’s even better. Thankfully, the focus is still on carnitas but their tortilla game has gotten even more interesting! Read on…

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Hydra: The Best Restaurant I Have Little Interest In Returning To

A friend’s birthday party with 12 people was booked at Hydra several weeks before the infamous and inflammatory vanmag.com review came out. It’s quite an entertaining read, and I use the word “inflammatory” on purpose because they entitled it, “Hydra Estiatorio Is a Dumpster Fire of a Restaurant”. But I think it was all a great teachable moment for the restaurant because I didn’t experience any of the major issues brought up in that review. Whew! (Mia Stainsby’s earlier review is a nice counterpoint.)

Still…Hydra (being a more upscale restaurant — although the food isn’t necessarily upscale, elevated, or refined) isn’t quite my cup of tzatziki. It’s like there’s a rich-person WhatsApp group and they all said to check out Hydra. Not my scene.

Continue reading Hydra: The Best Restaurant I Have Little Interest In Returning To

A Love Letter to Northern Vietnamese Food at Hanoi Old Quarter on Victoria Drive

Mr. Red Cafe has expanded again, with a new sister restaurant on Victoria Drive called “Hanoi Old Quarter”. It’s yet another chapter in owners Rose and Hong’s mission to share authentic Northern Vietnamese food with the people of Vancouver. It’s a 34-seat establishment with a small menu, about half of which are new dishes that are exclusive to this location. It’s worth checking out if you like what Mr. Red Cafe are doing with the lighter, cleaner flavours of Northern Vietnamese cuisine.

Note: I love how this group of restaurants is able to build flavours without resorting to MSG. While it’s true that there’s nothing wrong with MSG (and there are places that use it judiciously), I find that it’s often used as a crutch, propping up weak-ass broths that have no backbone to begin with. If you’re building flavours using actual (often expensive) ingredients, of course you’ll need to charge more. I think it’s worth it.

Note #2: Please don’t come here and ask the restaurant to not charge tax if you’re paying cash, like this asshat.

Continue reading A Love Letter to Northern Vietnamese Food at Hanoi Old Quarter on Victoria Drive

Edomae Sushi at Sushi Jin

Korean-run Sushi Jin on Nelson near Granville opened up in November 2018 and has been buzzing lately because of a glowing profile/feature/article (I wouldn’t call it a review) in Pendulum Magazine and very complimentary Google reviews. I’m more receptive to Korean-run sushi places now that I’ve had a rewarding first visit to Sushi Bar Shu. Korean-run Japanese sushi doesn’t have to mean cheap and cheerful Sushi Garden-type places anymore — it can be more refined, scaled-back, and adhere more to traditional sushi-making principles.

*Sushi Jin has responded with comments on Instagram that further explain some things I mention in this review. Worthwhile to read and see that every detail is deliberate.

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Happy Hour Quickie: Say Eight at Tacofino Ocho

I didn’t intend to review Tacofino Ocho but I wanted to try their grilled whole rockfish served with tortillas for ages, so you might find this quick post interesting. We ended up also having their big slab of pork belly which was excellent!

Explanation of “say eight” — comedian Brian Regan visits the emergency room and nurse asks him to rate his pain:

Supporting documentation:

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Dinner Quickie: Omakase Nigiri Set at Shima-Ya on Victoria Drive

My guestimation is that Shima-Yahas been around since 1999 April 5, 2007, around the same time as the London Drugs complex opened up at Victoria Drive and 41st. Small, Japanese-run places like this are getting rare these days, with the disappearance of neighbourhood family-run joints like Vanya, Takarabune, and Aotoya (Blue Door). Shama-Ya is still around, still run by the adorable Japanese couple. It’s a small 20-seater place that I’ve eaten at or gotten takeout from occasionally since they opened. Good, old-school, rustic sushi at a fair price. A definite cut above your non-Japanese-run sushi place. I figured I should write a bit about it before the owners inevitably retire. (I keep on thinking it’s going to happen soon, but the owners persevere with the help of their daughter! Enjoy this place while it’s still around!)

Continue reading Dinner Quickie: Omakase Nigiri Set at Shima-Ya on Victoria Drive